You've come of age. It's time to leave your hometown, explore the rest of the world, catch wild animals that roam the tall grasslands and battle other trainers. A professor gives you a starting critter to begin your journey and a piece of tech that logs all the wild creatures you come across. Sounds a little familiar, right?
This is the opening of creature-collecting MMORPG Temtem, developed by Madrid based studio Crema. It might be a tad on the nose, but after raising $574,000 through Kickstarter (eight times the project goal) with over ten thousand backers, it's safe to say that there are players who want a Pokémon MMORPG. I include myself in that group, and Crema are the ones that have taken the opportunity to create it. Temtem might take heavy inspiration from Pokémon, but it wears this badge with unapologetic pride.
You begin your adventure by choosing one of three starter Temtem to join you on your quest and it's the first look at what the Temtem creatures that Crema has created actually look like. In total, there are twelve different types of Temtem with from the classic types like fire, water, wind, and earth to other more intriguing ones like digital, crystal, and, the slightly dubious, mental. I pick Smazee, the melee monkey Temtem, purely because Professor Kostantinos says he won it in a pub brawl—good enough for me.
Temtem's universe is set on a group of islands called the Airborne Archipelago, and throughout your journey, you'll be visiting all six islands collecting their residential Temtem. The first island, Demiz, is a bright and colourful Mediterranean paradise and focuses on water and nature types of Temtem. But, before I even take one step into Demiz's sandy shores, Max, my Temtem tamer rival of the game, challenges me to a battle and I'm keen to throw down.
The battle system is similar to Pokémon. It's a 2v2 turn-based battle that focuses on teamwork and synergy between the Temtems in your squad. You choose one out of four attacks, use items, and swap out teammates until one you is out of Temtem and needs to retreat. One major difference in the battle system, which elevates it from it's Nintendo counterpart, is that instead of having a cap for attacks, each Temtem has a stamina meter that depletes when you attack.
It's a slight variation on Pokémon's attack SPs, although the stamina bar in Temtem decreases much faster. Naturally, the stronger the attack the more energy it takes to use and most attacks can take anywhere from a 5th of your Temtem's stamina to almost all of it in one swoop, meaning that sometimes you might only get to use a powerful move only once in a fight. If your Temtem runs out of stamina, it will start to take exhaustion damage and faint when it reaches zero.
This dramatically affects the way that battles play out. It challenges you to think about the pace of a battle and when to use certain moves instead of just spamming your most brutal attack. You can also see the opposing Temtem's stamina meter, and a vital part of strategising is planning around their stamina depletion. Even if you're up against a powerful opponent, if they use their strongest moves in the first two turns you can try and risk waiting them out, hoping that they will exhaust themselves. The balance between knowing when to hit hard, and when to play the long game, is a highlight of Temtem's combat system.
After defeating my rival it's time to explore the world and build up the ultimate Temtem team. The little critters are hidden in tall grassy areas and after my fair share of encounters I have good news, they are incredibly charming. There's a great mix of different styles of Temtem and I've only come across small handful (around thirty out of the 161 total Temtems). They all have unique attack and movement animations and as they follow you around they have little movements like the electric Temtem Ganki who's cute little spins add visual flair to its attacks and Tateru who's ears flap as it attacks and waddles around after you.
Wandering around the world of Temtem and hearing bits and pieces about its history and lore was a feature that surprised me the most. Exploring the world and defeating the dojo master to become the ultimate Temtem tamer is a given, but I wasn't expecting talks of airships, universities, monks, laboratories, crystal mines, and erupting volcanos.
You'll no doubt visit these places in time, but Temtem gives you snippets of information if you decide to complete some side quests. They're not especially difficult—find lost objects and deliver messages to people—but you can find out a lot more about the world and its inhabitants by completing them. In a game focused on creature collecting and battling, it's great to see the effort that went into building the wider world, and not just the creatures themselves.
Another highlight of Temtem is that it's, of course, an MMO. Pressing the Tab key opens up a bunch of options that let you battle near-by players and even create a co-op party. Picking either Casual or Competitive launches you into a battle with a player. It's fun seeing other players run around the world with their chosen Temtem following closely behind, it brings a sense of liveliness to an already colorful world.
Temtem is turning out to be quite a chunky MMO and a promising creature-collecting game. It took me around eight hours to finish the first archipelago and I hardly touched any of the side quests. I'm currently on an airship flying to the next island and I'm excited to see what's waiting for me there. There are islands to explore, online ranks to climb, more than a hundred more Temtem to find, and defeating the game's main villains, Clan Besto, who I have only had a brief encounter with so far.
If you're a fan of creature-collecting games like Pokémon, then make sure to keep Temtem on your radar. It's currently in alpha with a plan to launch into Steam Early Access on January 21st and a full release in May 2020. Temtem doesn't currently have an official webpage but if you want to know more info check out its detailed Kickstarter page.